Reagan Grisham said she’s visited nine countries in her lifetime and left a piece of her heart in each one.

But when she landed in New York City for Passport New York, she said God did something unexpected — He gathered all of those pieces up.

“I thought it would be just another short-term trip,” said Grisham, a senior at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas. “But it turned out to be life-changing. There are people here from all of those countries that I visited. And God affirmed a call for me to stay and plant my life here.”

John Ramirez, associate executive director for Metro New York Baptist Association, said he hears story after story like Grisham’s each year during Passport New York, a spring break missions effort designed to get students thinking about longer-term missions.

Saphyre Williams, a Passport New York college participant from Texas A&M University, makes friends with a Chinese woman and her daughter on the subway. After asking some questions with the hope of sharing the Gospel, the student learned that the woman is a follower of Jesus.

“Most everybody will see the same things when they come to the city — the icons of New York, the crowded streets, the city’s glitter,” he said. “But every now and then a student will see New York with different eyes — they will see the sadness, the lostness, the hopelessness.”

And every year, the city will draw 20 to 25 of the students back to stay for a summer, a semester or longer serving as interns with local churches and church plants.

George Russ, MNYBA executive director, said Passport New York is a “really important” time for the association’s ministry.

“It gives us quite a bit of impact in a short period of time, and we hope that it is impactful in the lives of students as they are praying about their future,” he said. “We love to challenge them to consider serving in some ministry capacity here.”

Ramirez and others started Passport New York seven years ago on the idea that one metro ticket in NYC was all a student needed to see the world, since every nationality lived right there.

This year’s Passport New York, from March 10-16, drew 223 students from as far away as Texas and as close as Syracuse University. Student teams served in 14 missions tracks across the city, assisting established ethnic churches and brand-new church plants.

“Our churches and church plants take this statement very seriously — we don’t want to be in our neighborhood, we want to be a part of our neighborhood,” Ramirez said. Students fleshed that out by washing windows of local businesses, getting to know business owners, picking up trash on the streets, singing and mingling on the subway and preparing meals for senior adults.

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Source: Baptist Press

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